April 1, 2021

UW Health Offers Advice to Overcome COVID-19 Vaccine Needle Fear

Madison, Wisconsin - Vaccines are critical to our efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic quickly, but the vaccines have one unavoidable barrier for many: A roughly 1-inch needle.

About 20 to 30 percent of the United States population ages 20 to 40 years old have a fear of needles in medical procedures, also called trypanophobia, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

This fear is real and can cause common symptoms like anxiety and worry, and also trigger more severe concerns like full-fledged phobia that can produce fainting or nausea, said Victoria Egizio, clinical health psychologist and behavioral health manager, UW Health.

"This is a fight or flight response; it's normal," she said. "We want to try to tackle those thoughts, calm the brain and body down and help people focus on their motivation to get the vaccine."

Starting Monday, vaccine eligibility in Wisconsin expands to all Wisconsin residents 16 years old and older. This correlates to an increase in the number of people who may have a fear of needles, and while this fear does tend to subside somewhat with age, making the greatest number of people comfortable with getting a vaccine will be critical, Egizio said.

Here are a few recommendations on overcoming a fear of needles:

  • Before, during and after vaccination utilize belly breathing to calm the body

  • During the vaccination, positive distraction can be useful like essential oils that trigger positive memories or talking with the person giving the vaccine

  • Prior to vaccination focus on positive, hopeful things, for example, getting a vaccination will help family and friends stay safe

While the public waits for vaccine supply to increase, please help slow the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • Staying home as much as possible

  • Wearing a mask

  • Keeping a safe distance from others

  • Washing your hands frequently

  • Quarantining if you feel ill

Video Visits

When you need urgent care, video visits give you and your family easy access to a provider in minutes on your computer, tablet or smartphone. 

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